Over the past few years, I’ve seen significantly more evidence that change occurs in small steps.
Small, bite-sized, easily defined, easily executed pieces.
One of my favorite change management instructors (John Berardi, who just happens to be in the nutrition and fitness space) continues to advocate for selecting one habit to modify and do so in a way that you have a 99% chance of succeeding. Minor choices lead to major changes.
Yes, there are times you need to yank out the rug.
- Stop drinking cold turkey – because trying to reduce it doesn’t work for you.
- Throw out all the junk food from the house – because if it is in the house, it gets eaten.
- Remove the classrooms – because they are expensive to maintain and run and instructors and students alike are using them as a crutch/excuse not to change.
Use the extreme approach sparingly, when all else doesn’t work.
The rebound can be spectacular if the extreme change is not supported for an extended period. I’ve seen that too many times both personally and professionally.
So why do we think that change will happen faster if we “pull out all the stops?” Change all the things all at once? Have a big, celebratory event and assume it will stick?
I’m beginning to think that we keep approaching change as an all-or-nothing deal because it satisfies some desires:
- The desire for excitement – gotta admit that big change initiatives, both personal and professional, can be exciting.
- The desire for certainty – big events have an end.
- The desire for clarity – big initiatives generally have clear goals. The only problem is that the destination they set isn’t the final one.
The fallacy is that we think of change as one and done.
Change is a process.
There IS no one and done.
- Stopping drinking? You still need to make a moment-by-moment decision on what to consume…for the rest of your LIFE.
- Changing your diet? You still need to go to the grocery store and choose the appropriate foods or select the option at the restaurant that matches your diet vs. what looks “tasty”…for the rest of your LIFE.
- Moving to online learning? You still need to make the appropriate instructional design decisions for your course objectives and continuously improve your development skills and your tools.
Those new habits need practice, reinforcement, supportive environments, and mindset changes.
Even with time, it can be shockingly easy to slip back into old habits.
The bigger the change, the bigger the potential rebound.
Let’s stop trying to change all the things all at once.